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India, Nepal begin talks to review trade treaty

Times of India

India, Nepal begin talks to review trade treaty

22 Feb, 2007

KATHMANDU: With 11 days left for the bilateral trade pact between India and Nepal to lapse, the two neighbours started their two-day talks on Thursday to review the 11-year-old Indo-Nepal trade treaty.

"Nepal is keen to attract Indian investment and seeks its assistance in building infrastructure, especially in the hydropower. It also want India to simplify the procedures at quarantine check posts at the customs offices," officials said.

"Nepal’s private sector has also stated focusing on an automatic renewal of the trade treaty till a comprehensive economic package is finalised," officials said, referring to the treaty, signed in 1996 and renewed every five years.

The term of the current treaty expires March 5.

At the two-day talks, the Indian side is led by Rajeev Kher, joint secretary in the commerce ministry, while the Nepali side is led by Purushottam Ojha, joint secretary at the ministry of commerce, industry and supplies.

Officials said both countries are members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral, Technical and Economic Cooperation) which includes Bangladesh, Bhutan Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Hence, a special need has been felt to upgrade ties at a bilateral level as well with additional facilities accruing to both countries. India is also Nepal’s largest trade partner, accounting for nearly 70 per cent of the volume of trade.

Close on the heels of the bilateral trade meet comes a regional meeting February 26 when trade ministers of the seven SAARC countries meet in Kathmandu to discuss the South Asian Free Trade Area Agreement (SAFTA).

Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath is arriving in Kathmandu February 25 to attend the meeting.

However, even as Kathmandu hosts two crucial trade meets, its southern plains, which are under the main route for Indo-Nepal trade, remain paralysed.

A band of former Maoists, the Janatantrik terai Mukti Morcha, called a three-day shutdown in the Terai plains from Wednesday, crippling life in the districts.

Another organisation, the Nepal Adivasi Janajati Mahasangh, called a separate closure on Thursday near central Nepal, which has also led to the closure of shops and disrupted the flow of transport and merchandise goods.

The Mahasangh and ethnic protesters from the Terai plains have also called a nearly weeklong transport strike and blockade of customs offices along the Indo-Nepal border from Monday.

Both the protesting communities are demanding separate autonomous states.

 source: Times of India